What is Course of Study in High School?

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High school includes a lot of different courses that are meant to help prepare you for your future academic career and your future jobs, but it can seem a little overwhelming at first. Throughout your time in high school, you will take all sorts of different classes, so in this article, we’ll be breaking down some of the most common courses of study for high school students.

Since each state does have different rules and requirements for high school students, it is worth looking into your state’s specific regulations. While we aim to give you a good, well-rounded understanding of what you should expect from your course of study in high school, each state will have different specifics.

What Does Course of Study Mean for High School?What Does Course of Study Mean for High School?

The course of study in high school means the courses you are required to take to graduate. In college, for example, you may major in English, meaning that you won’t have to take math and science, but this is not the case in high school. The general course of study for high school students is relatively the same all across the country.

What Is Course of Study For?

What Is Course of Study For?

Having a standardized course of study makes it easier to figure out precisely what a student needs to graduate high school. Since school no longer only refers to sitting in a classroom but can mean any number of things, it is essential to have a set of requirements or a course of study that must be followed.

What are the Core Subjects in High School?

What are the Core Subjects in High School?

Although each state has a different set of requirements for students to take in high school in order to successfully graduate and receive their diploma, there are some commonalities that most states have. We’ve broken them down into three main categories below:

Basic Subjects

1. Language arts

Language arts is the category that includes subjects such as writing, reading, English literature, and grammar. In most high schools, the title of these courses is simply “English I” or something similar that indicates which year of high school you take that course during.

Most states require that students take a full four years of language arts, although some might only require three years. This is one of the most common courses that all high schoolers will be required to take each year of their time in high school.

2. Social studies

Social studies include courses such as history, government, and economics. For most high schoolers, history is the social study that they are required to take, but in some places, you may be required to take economics to graduate. The same can be said for government courses, which are required in some states, but not in others.

Generally, students are required to take three years of history courses throughout high school, but most places recommend that you take all four years. Each school has its own order and titles for the courses, but they usually fall into the topics of US history, world history, and ancient history.

3. Math

Math is a pretty straightforward subject that most people are pretty familiar with. Math is usually required to be taken for at least three years, although four years of math is sometimes either required or recommended.

Math is typically broken down into different levels, which students can work through. This includes subjects like algebra I, algebra II, trigonometry, pre-calculus, and calculus.

4. Science

Science is one of the most straightforward subjects to discuss since it is naturally broken down into categories. Generally, students are required to take a minimum of three years of science courses during their time in high school, but many places recommend four years.

This usually comes in the form of the different categories of science, but the order of the courses offered can vary significantly between states and even between schools. Most students take biology, chemistry, and physics. The other common science subject that is sometimes required is earth science.

5. Electives

We’ll talk more about some of the most common electives later on, but they are worth mentioning here. Most states require that students take a certain number of electives. This is designed to help students explore more academic subjects than just those that are included in the basic course of study. They also allow students some freedom in creating their own course of study throughout high school.

Electives are a broad category and can cover everything from speech and typing classes to woodshop and art classes. Foreign languages also fall into the category of electives, although some schools have specific requirements surrounding foreign languages, which we’ll discuss in-depth later in this article.

College Classes

Although this article is about a high school course of study, it is worth discussing college courses or courses that can give you college credit that you take in high school. This can come in a variety of ways depending on your school and your proximity to colleges and universities around you.

6. AP courses

AP courses, or advanced placement courses, are standardized courses that end in standardized exams that schools can offer. Not all schools offer AP classes, but most schools offer at least a few AP courses. Schools can offer AP courses in everything from Calculus to Spanish to US History and even to art.

At the end of an AP course, the students in the course will take the standardized national AP exam associated with that course. They will then receive a score between one and five, indicating how well they did on the exam. Students who receive a four or five on an AP exam can get college credit for those courses when they start college.

7. IB courses

IB courses, or International Baccalaureate courses, are similar to AP courses in that they are courses offered to high school students that culminate in a standardized exam. If students perform well enough on the exam, they can possibly get college credit for their courses.

Unlike AP courses, which are offered at most high schools across the US, IB courses can be much harder to find and come in various levels. Some universities will only accept IB exams if they are the higher-level IB exams. Generally, if a school offers IB classes, they teach all IB classes, but that is not always the case.

8. College courses

Depending on where you live, there might be opportunities for you to take classes at a local college, community college, or university while you are still in high school. This could be an elective that your high school doesn’t offer, or it could be a class that is only provided at a certain level at the local higher education institution.

These classes are not typically graded the same for the high school students as they are for the college students also taking the class but are created to fit into the student’s high school curriculum and supplement it well. This isn’t an option for every student since not every high school has a local higher education institution to offer this college course style.

High School Electives

There are so many different electives out there to choose from, and it can seem a little overwhelming. Most states require that you take some electives that you can choose, but many require that you take specific electives such as physical education, foreign languages, and health. Below we’ll break down some of the most common categories of electives that high school students can choose from.

9. Foreign languages

Foreign languages are often required or highly recommended by schools, but most schools only require either one or two years. Many schools offer French courses and Spanish courses, while others offer a wider variety of languages that can include anything from Latin courses to Chinese courses. It all depends on the specific school.

Foreign languages are something that colleges tend to look upon favorably, so even if your school doesn’t require that you take any foreign language courses, it might be a good idea to take some.

10. Physical education

Physical education, or PE as it is more commonly called, is often required in some capacity throughout high school. Some schools require that you either play a school sport or take a PE course, while others simply require that everyone take a PE course.

These courses are designed to help keep students in shape throughout high school. Sometimes they are more tailored towards teaching students how to take care of themselves, while other times, they are more about exposing students to sports and physical activity.

11. Art and music

Art is a massive category and can cover everything from two-dimensional art and three-dimensional art to the more theoretical art courses or art history courses that some high schools offer. Although most high schools don’t require that students take art courses, many students opt to take an art course at some point during their time in high school.

Music is another large category. This includes vocals as well as instrumental music. Again, music is not usually required but is often something that students greatly enjoy. Many high schools have bands, orchestras, and choirs that students can enjoy to work on their musical ability.

What Classes in High School Do Colleges Look For?

What Classes in High School Do Colleges Look For?

Applying for college is talked about all throughout high school, and there are many things that people say that colleges look for. Some people will tell you that it’s all about the grades you get, while others will tell you that it’s all about the classes you take. In truth, it is a combination of these factors as well as many more that colleges will look at.

In general, colleges care about the trajectory of your grades throughout your high school career instead of what your GPA or grade point average is. This means that if you come into high school mainly getting C’s but graduate getting straight A’s your junior and senior year, this will be looked upon better than you getting straight B’s all the way through high school in most cases.

In terms of the classes that you take, colleges are looking for you to push yourself and not just take the easy way out of everything. This means that if your school offers something like a foreign language, it will look good to a college that you took a foreign language.

College admission is constantly changing, so make sure you keep on top of any new developments with the schools you are applying to. Some schools no longer require you to submit your standardized test scores. Some schools might give you more specifics on what courses they look for, while others won’t give you much to work with. It’s up to you to create a course of study that pushes you but also helps you build a solid foundation to support your college career.

Wrapping Things Up: What is Course of Study in High school?

Overall, the course of study that you take in high school is pretty similar to your local public high school’s curriculum. This means that you’ll be taking all the usual subjects, such as math, English, science, and history, as well as being expected to take some electives along the way.

Make sure you take advantage of these electives and use them as a time to really help build up the skill set you think you will need to get through college and launch yourself into a successful career in the future. The course of study that you will take in high school is helping you to build a foundation for all of your future goals and aspirations.

If you found this helpful, you’ll love our other high school study tips.

You might also like these articles on the best high school advice to survive.

Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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